Memorial Day Weekend
A Monster at the Box Office

John Hamann's Weekend Wrap-Up

May 24-27, 2002

We got Spirit, Yes We Do

Memorial Day weekend came, went, and again brought huge dollars to the North American box office. The May US long weekend has been the launching pad for many box-office blockbusters, so this year was somewhat different, with three somewhat smaller films opening. Insomnia, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and J-Lo's Enough hit 8,550 screens over the Memorial Day frame, but it was still Star Wars and Spider-Man taking the headlines this weekend.

Since 1983, Memorial Day weekend has usually been the gateway to summer in terms of box office, even though that has changed in the last few years, with the expansion into earlier May of the summer movie season. In '83 Fox and Lucasfilm opened Return of the Jedi on Memorial Day weekend, enjoying a record-breaking gross of $30.5 million over the four-day (Friday to Monday) portion of its six-day opening weekend (RotJ opened on the Wednesday before the long weekend). If that seems like a low holiday long weekend take for a Lucas pic, remember that films were not distributed as widely as they are now; RotJ opened on 1,002 screens, and thusly carried a remarkable screen average of $30,439. In comparison, and forgetting inflation, when Attack of the Clones opened last weekend on 3,161 screens, it had a three-day screen average of a little over $25,000. In 1984, Lucas and Harrison Ford were back again, this time with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That film set a new record, grossing $33.9 million from 1,687 screens. A year later, another record was broken, this time for size of release. Rambo: First Blood Part 2 opened on a then-record 2,074 screens, grossing $25.5 million over the long weekend. The rest is history. Hollywood had figured out that studios could control the marketplace to an extent; that scheduling and distribution were huge keys to the success of a film. Other films to open on Memorial Day weekend before 1990: A View to a Kill ($13.3 million), Stallone's Cobra ($15.7 million), Poltergeist 2 ($12.4 million), Beverly Hills Cop 2 ($33 million), Crocodile Dundee 2 ($24.5 million), Rambo 3 ($16.7 million), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ($37 million). As for post-1990, check out the chart below for more information.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Back To the Future Part III' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Bird on a Wire' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Hudson Hawk' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Thelma & Louise' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Lethal Weapon 3' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Alien 3' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Far and Away' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Cliffhanger' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Flintstones, THe' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Beverly Hills Cop III' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Casper' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Braveheart' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Mission: Impossible' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Lost World: Jurassic Park, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Addicted to Love' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Godzilla' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Notting Hill' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Mission: Impossible 2' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Shanghai Noon' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Pearl Harbor'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Memorial Day Weekend Openers" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Attack of the Clones was the obvious choice for the number-one spot this week, as the buzz about box office for this film is outpacing buzz for the film. AotC grossed a healthy $60.0 million over the four-day weekend (Friday to Monday). Still in 3,161 venues, the battle epic still had an excellent screen average of $18,983. The 12-day gross for the film stands at an impressive $201.3 million. If Spider-Man hadn't opened two weeks earlier, the space epic would have enjoyed the fastest film to $200 million record as well. For a more detailed report on the day-to-day box office of AotC, check out BOP's daily analysis.

Sony's Spider-Man was again second this week, as it now begins to look at the upper echelon of biggest grosses ever. Over the four-day weekend, Spidey grabbed a still-very strong $35.8 million. Sony made an interesting move this weekend, adding 261 venues, filling some screens that The Scorpion King had in previous weeks, as that film lost 1,028 screens and is spending its last week in the top ten. With a current gross of $333.6 million, Spider-Man also broke another record this weekend, becoming the fastest film to cross the $300 million mark. The comic pic did it in 22 days, obliterating the old mark held by Lucas' Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. That film took 28 days to cross the hurdle. It should be a no-brainer to beat the mighty Titanic to $400 million; that film took 66 days to reach that mark, giving Spidey a huge head start.

Spidey's marketing campaign from Sony only improves. The TV ad of Spider-Man swinging through critic's reviews is a masterstroke; the 30-second ad shows off the critical nods, but at the same time showcases the effects of the film brilliantly without giving away the magic. Over the last year, I have berated Sony a lot in this column, but they deserve every red cent this film earns. Marketing, distribution, scheduling, and film quality have all be nothing less than remarkable. Kudos to them on a great job.

Make no mistake of it now; Spider-Man has a decent shot at becoming the second-highest grosser of all time. This weekend, the flick passed last year's phenomenon, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which grossed $317.5 million over its run. It also passed Forrest Gump, which somehow managed to gross $329.7 million. Check out the chart below to see where this film is headed.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Titanic' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Star Wars: The Phantom Menace' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Jurassic Park' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Forrest Gump' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Lion King, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Independence Day' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Sixth Sense, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Home Alone'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Top Ten Films Since 1990" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Third spot is a nice surprise, as Insomnia, starring Robin Williams and Al Pacino found a great niche, grossing a very excellent $26.2 million over the four-day holiday weekend. With web-slingers and Yoda around, it is a pleasant surprise that the top ten isn't top-heavy. All segments of the moviegoing audience were served this weekend, and older males and females abandoned Unfaithful and went to the dark side to enjoy Chris (Memento) Nolan's new film. The WB flick opened on 2,610 screens, which was the smallest opening of the new releases this week. It carried a very healthy four-day screen average of $9,988.

Reviews for Insomnia at Rotten Tomatoes were fantastic. Of the 94 reviews gathered, only seven were negative. That translates to a whopping 93% positive score. Spider-Man may rule the world right now, but as far as reviews go, Insomnia has the web-slinger beat; Spider-Man pulled an 87% positive score at RT. As for opening night moviegoers, word was somewhat different. According to CinemaScores, the film gathered an average grade of B, and results were mixed around the different demographics; men liked it much more than women. Regardless, this film has to be the early favorite for Oscar talk, and will hopefully be able to hold on to its screens heading into the crazy summer season.

Fourth spot this weekend went to the movie that should win an award for worst title, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. Somehow this film grossed $23.2 million over the long weekend, but I couldn't tell you for a second how it did it. The marketing was awful. The only thing this film had going for it was that it played to very young females, who wouldn't be interested in the good parts of AotC. The other thing the film had going for it was the venue count. DreamWorks often spares no expense in getting their animated films out as wide as possible; this one opened on 3,317 screens and had a four-day venue average of $6,998. The film opened quite softly on Friday, grossing an estimated $4.53 million, but bounced back on Saturday, grossing just short of $7 million.

Regardless of what my small mind thinks of this film, audiences seem to really enjoy it. BOP ran a positive early review of the film a few weeks ago, which you can read by clicking here. RT scores were quite good, finding 54 positive reviews out of a possible 78 for a healthy score of 69%. It was the CinemaScores that will keep DreamWorks' hopes up; the average score was an A, but the extremely key demo of under 21s gave it exactly what it needed, an A+. Even with the success of Shrek, DreamWorks needs a big box-office winner, as they haven't had a half-Shrek-sized hit in almost two years, going back to What Lies Beneath. Even that film was shared with Fox, which distributed it outside of North America. The horizon looks good for the company, though; up next is Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks. Check out the chart below to see how the three-year-old company is doing up to now.

<% sqlstr = "SELECT * FROM box WHERE" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Time Machine, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Last Castle, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Curse of the Jade Scorpion, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Evolution' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Shrek' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Mexican, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Legend of Bagger Vance, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Contender, The' OR" sqlstr = sqlstr + " movie like 'Almost Famous'" sqlstr = sqlstr + " ORDER BY open DESC" max = 100 header = "Dreamworks Chart" tstyle = "release" skin = "bop" x = Drawtable(sqlstr,max,header,tstyle,skin) %>

Jennifer Lopez's star seems to dimming somewhat, as her film Enough looks to be headed in the same direction of her dramatic role from 2000, The Cell. Opening in fifth, the action drama took in $17.2 million over the four-day weekend from 2,623 screens. It carried an average of $6,562. In the weeks leading up to the release, I thought this would be more of a player this weekend. This movie is far from dead, though; the genre itself is good for legs, and comeback/revenge flicks are a good bet for decent word-of-mouth. It started right, CinemaScores were great, averaging an A-, with women liking it more than men. Critics weren't as kind. Rotten Tomatoes gathered 73 reviews, and only 17 were positive, for a brutal score of 23%.

About a Boy was sixth this weekend, as Universal got a decent hold for their film after adding 562 screens in its second weekend, bringing the count to a still-small 1,749. The Hugh Grant film grossed $9.8 million over the four-day weekend. With a four-day venue average of $5,615, Universal is in a position where they can continue to add screens and turn AaB into a quasi-platform release. Why Universal would fear the competition factor of Attack of the Clones and Spider-Man is beyond me. This film works as excellent counter-programming to these massive hits, so I'm surprised they didn't go wider up front. The trouble with this kind of release is that it's hard to tell which way would have gone better for the company, but with a gross so far of $21.8 million, and a budget that probably wasn't too far away from that figure, all sides should be pleased.

Seventh spot goes to Unfaithful, from Adrian Lyne and starring Richard Gere. After holding superbly last weekend, and even with the Memorial Day bounce on Sunday, the film sputtered a bit this frame, coming up with a third-weekend gross of $7.6 million over the four-day weekend. Still, the total for the Fox flick stands at an excellent $41.0 million.

Eighth this week is The New Guy, which is another smart release from Sony. Somehow this film grossed another $5.4 million this weekend, bringing its total to $24.4 million. The film may look dumb; however, it's found an audience dancing around multiplexes with Sony's Enough and Spider-Man. With a cost of only $13 million, this is another winner for the studio.

Ninth is where the line is drawn this weekend, as the final two entries on the chart are leagues behind their compatriots. Ninth goes to Changing Lanes from Paramount, which grossed $1.9 million, raising its total to an impressive $64.4 million. Tenth is the aforementioned Scorpion King. TSK grossed $1.8 million, raising its total to $87.9 million.

Overall box office continues to soar in 2002, as this Memorial Day weekend set a record for housing the biggest overall totals ever; the top ten films grossed a remarkable $191.5 million over the four-day weekend, a feat that has never been achieved.

Next weekend brings another blockbuster to the field, that being The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. It will be interesting to see if moviegoers are ready for a somewhat scary look at terrorism. Also opening is Undercover Brother, which has one of the better trailers out there. Check out BOP's release schedule for more information on these films and the films already in release.

Top Ten for Weekend of May 24-27
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
no change
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
About a Boy
The New Guy
Changing Lanes
The Scorpion King



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